Thursday, January 30, 2014

From Burnout to Direction

Here are my thoughts from the last 4 articles in January's Tabletalk.  The first is "Avoiding Burnout" by Archie Parrish.

"The root cause of burnout is the failure to draw on the power available from our union with Christ."  How insulting to our Lord and the endless store he has available for us.  I've been through burnout.  All of have.  You keep serving the Lord, but your life becomes less successful, you still feel stuck in the same situation, people you pray for keep dying, some don't come to the Lord, and you feel futility.  But like the writer of Psalm 73, you look to Christ and realize his perspective.  He's got a much bigger plan in mind that all fits together for his glory.  He has me in a January slump for his glory, and I must keep looking to him for hope.

"The Lord's Day and Discipleship" by James L. Harvey III.  "God intends our discipleship as Christians to be expressed in the church in particular."  Bible studies, small groups, men's groups, women's groups, Ligonier conferences, local charities, etc., they are all good things and ways to disciples God's people.  But God mostly wants his people to be discipled within the local Church.  Jesus established the priority of the local church.  This is dismaying when I think of all the churches I have attended in the past 10 years.  I have not stuck with one and only became member of one.  Now I attend a mega-church where it's so big that it's hard to get close to anyone.  Am I in the Lord's will?  If not, he will direct me to be in his will.  And he is slowly showing me how I can participate in discipleship even at a big church like CBC within the chapel choir and orchestra.

"We come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God," Hebrews 12:22.  In one sense, all true churches are the same church, though we must congregate in a smaller local setting to receive the benefit of "weekly shelter and refreshment from the wilderness of the world until the Lord Jesus Christ returns and makes all things new."

The featured interview is with Ed Stetzer.  It comes at an opportune time.  He is president of Research at LifeWay Corporation, and I am a sales associate at a LifeWay store in a time where business is low.  I get discouraged but I feel by featuring Ed Stetzer in Tabletalk, that God is prodding me to continue on.  Much like that rainbow I saw on the morning that I did inventory for the story and interviewed to get my job.  God keeps reminding me, "It's alright.  Keep it up."

"The Historical Reality of Adam" by Guy Prentiss Waters.

I don't know if Waters is a YEC or and OEC, but he has enough sense that you need to take Genesis as literally as possible for the Gospel story to make any sense.  If there is no historical Adam, then there is no historical Jesus.  But even skeptics attest to a historical Jesus, and I am convinced he is everything the Bible claims him to be.  Therefore, Adam is a real man who brought sin into the world, the world being free from sin and death before that.  That has to be true if Jesus is to come and bring life back to his fallen creation and to destroy death forever.  The people who claim to be evangelical and deny the real Adam need to just sit down and quit calling themselves evangelical.

I'm a fan of Doctor Who.  The writers of the show are definitely atheists.  The episode last night affirmed the glory of the big bang theory.  And yet, I still feel like they are better theologians than "Christians" who just can't open their minds to the discoveries of Answers in Genesis.  The Doctor is open to having dinosaurs on an ark, full grown ones even.  The show is clear that there is a power behind all creation as much as it wants to deny it.  Only people who deny God's existence seriously lie to themselves.  If God is real and if he defines all things, then his creation account is true verbatim, and the flood truly explains all the fossil chaos found today and the dragons that all societies have some legend of.  The dinosaurs became dragons and lived.  I want to believe that.  And I want to believe the beautiful truth of creation, sin, and the Gospel that redeems all creation.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

JM and T: Joshuas

In sections 111-120, Justin continues expounding on Moses and Joshua and how they relate to Jesus's two comings.  Moses prefigured the first coming when he held his hands up in battle so that the Israelites could win.  Joshua, who has the same name as Jesus, figures the second coming as he leads the Israelites to victory.  He was the first to make it through to the promised land and the one that could lead them in.

He then continues by talking about another Joshua, or Jeshua the high priest when Israel returned from exile.  Zechariah the prophet envisioned Jeshua wearing filthy clothes and Satan accusing him.  Then God the Son rebukes Satan and says, "Is this not a brand I have plucked from the fire?"  He then takes on the bad clothes and give Jeshua good clothes.  Just like Jeshua, Jesus is the perfect high priest who stands before the Father on our behalf.  And being the gracious high priest, he wears all our filthy garments in front of him.  Satan tries to attack him, in fact he does attack him, and then God raises him from the dead because Jesus is the only perfect human ever to live.  He took our filthy clothes, and he continues to stand victorious before the throne.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

JM and T: Mostly Psalm 22

In sections 101-110, Justin mostly unpacks Psalm 22, showing how it exactly portrays Jesus's life and crucifixion.  The first words are Christ's last words on the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

It goes into detail such as men gambling for Jesus's clothes, how they beat Jesus, the people from all nations who judged the Lord (bulls of Bashan).  It even anticipates his resurrection.  Jesus trusted in the Father from his mother's breast. 

25"From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
    May your hearts live forever!"

30 Posterity shall serve him;
    it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
    that he has done it.

Justin makes two interesting tangents.  At one point he mentions Joseph taking Mary and Jesus to Egypt to protect him from Herod.  Jesus was sent to die for his people, but he needed to be an adult before then.  Could not God have killed Herod instead of making the other infants die?  "I return answer by anticipation: Could not God have cut off in the beginning the serpent, so that he exist not, rather than have said, ‘And I will put enmity between him and the woman, and between his seed and her seed?’ Could He not have at once created a multitude of men? But yet, since He knew that it would be good, He created both angels and men free to do that which is righteous, and He appointed periods of time during which He knew it would be good for them to have the exercise of free-will; and because He likewise knew it would be good, He made general and particular judgments; each one’s freedom of will, however, being guarded."

Jesus still needed a strong opponent in the government.  God still gives people free will so that his grace can override their foolish decisions.  God allowed Eve to eat the fruit, but he used that to reveal Jesus throughout history.  God allowed the Jews and Romans to crucify Jesus, but he planned that from before he created the world so that his lost people could be saved.  Why did the infants have to die during Herod's jealousy?  Why do they die in abortion now?  It is not because God is heartless to allow it.  It is because people are being judged for turning their backs on God, and ultimately God is working to save some of them when all of them deserve hell.  

It is still a conundrum.  God sovereignly and unconditionally saves people from damnation but they still have free will.  God ordained his perfect world to suffer from sin and death so that he could reveal Jesus.  Ultimately, all answers will come someday.  Until then, we just trust that God is good and loving and knows what he's doing.

The other tangent was about God changing names.  He changed Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel, and as God the Son dwelt on earth, he changed Simon to Peter and James and John to the Sons of Thunder.  Even in the New Covenant, Jesus changes names and improves scoundrels so that they can then bless the whole world for Jesus.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Gideon: a Fool that God Used

This is because I attended a session of Priscilla Shirer's bible study about Gideon.  I was very glad that I went.  I don't know if I will always be able to go, but this session encouraged me.

Gideon is in the book of Judges.  He lives at a time when the people are saved from Egypt, but now they live in Canaan and take God for granted.  They also want to impress their wicked neighbors.  They go through cycles: 1) They worship God. 2) They begin to worship idols. 3) Their society crumbles to another country. 4) God raises up a savior to rescue them and to bring them back to God.

You can get many morals from Judges.  You get plenty of people to not imitate.  Like Gideon, I live in a wicked time where a once-moral society falls to a pagan country.  This falling causes me to hide and to not be able to work or make a living.  God used Gideon, one of the bible's biggest Bumblers.  He can use me, also a big Bumbler.  It's not the end.

Ultimately, Judges is a prophetic book.  It was written by the prophets to commentate on Israel's history and to point to where it is leading.  The constant cycles in Judges that culminate in good men such as Jephthah or Othniel, or shady men like Ehud, Samson, and Gideon, and even one woman, Deborah, all of them point to our need to focus on God.  On our own power we are woefully unable to continue to follow Yahweh.  We get distracted, and we ultimately need a savior to bring us out of our pagan surroundings.  Later, Israel tried to cure this with kings.  They still fell into idolatry.  Ultimately, God had to send Christ, the King of Kings to finally save his people permanently.

In this story, oddly, Gideon is a type of Christ.  He's a terrible example, but I heard a sermon today on Judges by Jonathan Fletcher on the Gospel Coalitions saying, "Don't ever tell God who he can't use."  We can certainly call out ungodly behavior, beliefs, hypocrisy, and poor choices, but God still uses those people.  He uses godless men like Barack Obama.  He uses confusing men like Rick Warren.  He uses Hitler.  And he uses normal people like myself.  They all point to our major need for salvation.  And they point to Jesus who overcomes even biggest errors to redeem us from sin and for himself.

JM and T: The Bronze Serpant and Christ

This will be a short post.  This comes from sections 91-100 of the dialogue with Trypho.  Justin teaches that sometimes people misread the Scriptures and think that God presented different forms of righteousness throughout history before Christ came.  People from Abraham to Moses were righteous because of circumcision.  People between Moses and Jesus were saved through circumcision and law.  After Jesus, they are saved through grace in Jesus.

The truth is, all people in all history were saved through grace in Jesus.  God called Abraham righteous, and then he gave him circumcision.  His righteousness came before his work.  God saved Israel from Egyptian slavery and then he gave them the Law.  They were already saved and were called to act accordingly.  And they all had the sign of God providing a substituted to sacrifice instead of Isaac.  And they also saw the sign of looking to the brass serpent in the desert to be healed from their much-deserved snake bites. 

They guys are starting to believe Justin but are still confused about the curse for people hanged on a tree.  "Just as God commanded the sign to be made by the brazen serpent, and yet he is blameless; even so, though a curse likes in the law against persons who are crucified, yet no curse lies on the Christ of God, by whom all that have committed things worthy of a curse are saved."  Christ suffered because of our disobedience, for our curse.  And being perfect, he conquered death.  The people were cursed because they did not follow the things written in the law according to Deuteronomy 27:26.  Our perfect Jesus took that curse and ended it.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

JM and T: Pre-existence and Signs

In chapters 71-80 of Justin's dialogue with Trypho, he mostly goes into repetitions about Scriptures that the Jewish people ignore.  He appeals to some Apocryphal works that I agree do not have any more spiritual inspiration than some book from Barnes and Noble.  But it is telling that when the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered nearly 60 years ago, that missing verses showed up in certain Psalms that most certainly point to Jesus.  The Jews are not impressed with them and prefer to not have them.

Trypho seems to finally take Justin seriously.  He asks a good question.  If Christ is pre-existent, then why do the Scriptures speak of the Spirit resting on him?  Justin answers that his powers came upon him not because he needed them, but because they find their accomplishment in him.  Prophecy and signs climax in Jesus and fizzle out shortly after the apostles die.  None of the signs: the virgin birth, riding into town on a donkey, the temptation in the desert: none of them made him Christ.  They showed that he was Christ.

Slowly, Trypho and his buddies concede, but they still can't wrap their mind around the need for Christ to die a crucifixion since it comes with a curse.  All the same, says Justin, the Scriptures prophesy just that.  It is even typified by Moses when he stretches out his hands so that Israel will win against Amalek.  That is a type of the cross.  It happened while Joshua (same name as Jesus) led Israel as commander.

What can we reap from all this dialogue?  Maybe if we chisel away at unbelief enough, those we wish to persuade will finally understand, or at least will come to a peace about what can't be understood.  Sometimes, people we love still won't get our point even with much concrete proof in Scripture and in nature.  Trypho still doesn't get the crucifixion.  People today still won't reorganize their mind to leave the evolutionary brainwashing we all received in school and be free to not compromise their beliefs in God.  They could be free to simply take God at his word, but they still get bogged down in the forest by the trees.  No matter.  Our goal is not to convert them.  Our goal is to continue to open their hearts to Scripture so that Jesus can finally convert them.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Into the World: me discussing RC Sproul's article this month

The Tabletalk this month is about Hermeneutics and how they go wrong.  It is very complex and informative, but it is so detailed that I would not know where to start.

R.C. Sproul's article is not about Hermeneutical Fallacies.  It's more about Christian practices that are good but can be too much if they go too far.

There are many times in the Bible where humans experienced God's full glory and survived.  Many of them like Isaiah in his 6th chapter were scared that they would die.  Jacob, Manoah, and others were all frightened for their lives when they came to realize they were talking directly with the fullness of God's deity.

Only one person wanted to stay forever.  Everybody's favorite impulsive disciple, Simon Peter, saw Jesus transfigured to his full heavenly glory with James and John.  They were no doubt frightened, then.  But Peter still asked Jesus if they could build three shrines and stay on the mountain: one to Jesus, Elijah, and Moses each.  "All they wanted at that moment was to bask in Jesus's glory forever."

Jesus in his infinite wisdom said no to this request, and then God the Father told them to listen to Jesus.  It is good to have a time alone with the Lord and be refreshed in the faith.  However, God did not intend us to stay there  God intended his people to leave the safety of their churches, go into the world, and tell them all that Jesus is the only solution to their sins and that they will perish without him.

Paul debated Greeks in the Areopagus.  This would be like me talking to people at the mall about what I believe, especially in an area where they are opposed to my beliefs.  Paul risked his life, and Greece came to know Jesus. 

There are times when people should leave the public sphere and away from sinners, but it is never a permanent option for Christians.  We have all eternity to linger in Christ's glory.  Now we must share that glory with people who hate it.  I think this week, I will have trouble doing that.  I only have four hours at work tonight.  Then, I don't work the rest of the week.  What a great time to just sit and meditate!  But that is not the Lord's will for me.  He needs me to leave my house and interact with people.  I'm still trying to figure out how I will do that this week.  The Lord wants me to do so, so he will make it happen.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Justin and Trypho go on and on

It looks like the dialogue with Justin Martyr and Trypho goes on for about 150 chapters.  Yes I'm going to finish it.  I just might try to go through more of it at once.  It seems at this point that Justin has exhausted all his good arguments and now Trypho is just being argumentative for the sake of argument.  At this point, I think Justin should just go home and try to debate someone else.

But I applaud Justin for not giving up.  He sees something worth continuing the conversation for.  Just before section 50 and up to section 70, there is much circular argument and repetition, but the two bring up topics that I have noticed lately.

First, Justin points to John the Baptist as a concrete witness to Jesus being the Christ.  I read through the Gospels over Christmas season, and I noticed for the first time how much importance is placed on John the Baptist by all four writers.  Luke gives him a birth narrative.  Mark starts his gospel with John's ministry.  The other John starts his gospel with John the Baptist as a testimony to Jesus, showing that Jesus did not come on his own authority.  And of course, Matthew moves on to John's story shortly after Jesus's birth narrative.

It is wonderful to know that Jesus did not just come out of the woods one day with some message from golden tablets that no one could see.  He came from the nation of Israel based on the Word of God the Father and attested by many eyewitnesses, both believer and non-believer.  Peter himself says that they did not follow cleverly invented stories (2 Peter 1:16).  He really did see Jesus transfigured with James and John.  He really did see Jesus alive after he had been obviously killed.  In the same vein, this crazy guy in the desert who dresses in camel fur and never cuts his hair and eats bugs is some how attracting a crowd.  Jesus comes to him to be baptized, and John declares that he is God's Christ after he saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus like a dove.

The conversation moves on to some confusion.  I don't know if it is because English words change meaning throughout the years or if this is a bad translation provided by Philip Schaaf.  But the two guys get into a tiff about whether the Old Testament speaks of somebody other than God the Father who speaks to Moses and Abraham.  Justin affirms that he is another God.  Anyone who knows Jesus can say that Jesus is not a separate god from the Father.  They are the same Holy God.  He is however, a separate entity who has always ministered alongside the Father.  Justin or his translator simply use the wrong wording when describing this.  Jesus is not a separate god or demigod.  He is the full embodiment of Yahweh.  Yet, he and the Spirit are alongside the Father from eternity all carrying out God's will.

At the same time, Justin does cite the Angel of the Lord passages.  In Genesis 18 three angels come to Abraham to tell him and Sarah that they will bear a son the next year.  Soon, two angels walk off to investigate Sodom, but the third suddenly talks to Abraham and the text says, and God said.  This was not just an angel.  This was indeed Christ in the old testament taking on a human form to converse with Abraham.  Yes, the Angel of God in the Old Testament is Christ.  Christ is not an angel, but in a lose definition of "angel," he is this extra man who shows up and is clearly not just a man or an angel.  He is God.  He appears in Joshua 5 as the commander of the Lord's army.  He appears to Moses in the burning bush.  He appears to Hagar in the desert.  They all worship him, and he accepts that worship.  Angels in Revelation do not accept worship, but this guy does.  And these people are blessed.  He's Christ.

Justin also mentions the personification of Wisdom in Proverbs 8.  This is clearly describing Jesus who created the universe with the Father.  This is also a confusing passages as liberals cite it to say it is alright to refer to God in female terms.  Clearly wisdom is not to be personified as a woman named Sophia who held God's hand at creation.  But the description of her perfectly applies to Jesus who was the Word who created the heavens and earth.

Finally, Trypho brings up arguments that are popular today in 2014 but are certainly not new.  There has always been the controversy over whether Isaiah 7:14 refers to a virgin or a young woman.  I know Jesus and know that it refers to Mary who bore Jesus without having conceived him from a man.  She really was a virgin.  And the passage really can refer to a simple young woman regardless of her dating status.  Then he brings up myths such as Mithras, Bacchus, Hercules, etc.  They all claimed to be sons of god.  Their mothers claimed to be virgins.  They are completely different.  Mithras was formed from a rock and wasn't really born.  The women who bore Zeus's children were clearly inseminated by Zeus.  This was not the case with Mary.  God caused Jesus to grow from her egg without being conceived from a human father to show that he really was the Christ.  His mother bore him as a virgin, and that is how we know he is Jesus.

It just goes to show that New Age religion is never new.  Arguments that are scientifically laughable are still strong and have existed ever since Roman times.  They still do not change Christ and his verification by those signs or by the prophets.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Continuing debate between Justin and Trypho: OT rituals

I think that in the new year I will resolve to move faster through the writings of Justin Martyr so that I can move on to other ancients.  The retail Christmas is over, the liturgical Christmas is over as of today, and I have less hours at LifeWay in which I can read more Justin.  It would also be good to pray for God to direct my paths as I decide to stay with the Atlanta LifeWay, move to the Conyers LifeWay, or seek another job in the law.  I also want to have more time for missions.

We now reach sections 41-50 of Justin's debate with the Jew Trypho who won't convert to Christ because Christians don't practice the Old Testament rituals.  Just has just finished explaining how many of the rituals point to Christ and are now fulfilled in him so that we no longer have to follow them.  We must follow Him instead.

The offering of fine flour given as a peace offering foreshadows the Eucharist.  It was a method of fellowship with God.  Eucharist means "thanksgiving", and we are always thankful that God created the world, delivered us from its evil, and has overthrown principalities and powers.  This is true for both Old and New Testament.

The bells on the priest's robe pointed to Christ's apostles.  I still think this is a stretch, but it is interesting that the high priest in the Old Covenant wore 12 bells on his robe that made music and sang God's praises for all the world to hear.  Jesus, the eternal High Priest, started with 12 apostles who took his message to the world and whose disciples still make the same music.

Mostly, the Jews pride themselves in being circumcised and believe that Christians need to still keep that ritual.  However, circumcision was a sign to Abraham and his children that he should be killed for his sin.  Instead of killing Abraham, God chose to bless him and those who believe with him by only cutting the male part.  When Jesus came, he was completely killed.  In his prefect life, he completed the ultimate penance for humanity's sin.  Now his believers are not required to be physically cut.  Their baptism in the Holy Spirit circumcises their souls, which is more important. 

The Jewish people enjoy their circumcision so much that they imagine that it is still effective to save them from eternal separation from God.  It is not.  Jesus completed that ritual.  Circumcision and the law only pointed to him and showed that there can be no salvation apart from Jesus Christ.

Trypho asked an interesting question.  Can people who believe in Jesus also still continue in the Jewish rituals and still be saved?  Justin says yes.  There are Christians who still get circumcised, some who celebrate Passover, and some who follow the kosher laws.  However, these people should not insist on such laws for other people in order to be saved.  They are saved only by faith in Christ.  Even those who insist on the Jewish rituals who do persuade others to follow them, they can still be saved if they truly believe in Jesus, but they will be judged more harshly and are likely to lead many into legalism.

No, believers must not insist on people refraining from shrimp or tattoos or insist on celebrating old feasts.  They can do so, but Jesus completed that.  In the Church Era, we need to follow Jesus, and thus we will be saved and grow in his holiness.